Iran: New report demands end to the rampant use of forced confessions

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Between 2009 and 2019, Iranian state-owned media broadcast the forced confessions of at least 355 individuals and defamatory content against at least 505 individuals, according to a new report published today by FIDH and its member organization Justice for Iran (JFI).

The 57-page report, “Orwellian State: The Islamic Republic of Iran’s State Media as a Weapon of Mass Suppression,” is the outcome of more than 1,500 hours of research and analysis of over 150 programs and 13 in-depth interviews with victims, shedding light on the long-standing practice of extracting and broadcasting forced confessions.

"The use of forced confessions broadcast by state-owned media has been systematically used by the Iranian authorities to repress dissent for decades. It’s time for the international community to press Iran to end this practice, which is the source of many grave human rights violations."

Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Secretary-General

Marking 26 June, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the report reveals that forced confessions have been systematically broadcast by Iranian state-owned media to instill fear and repress dissent, a practice that amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and other human rights violations. Victims revealed that not only were they subjected to torture and ill-treatment to force them to confess - often to false statements - in front of the camera, but that furthermore, the broadcasting of these confessions caused enormous pain and suffering. Many of the victims described these programs as mental and psychological torture with long-lasting impacts.

The report highlights the far-reaching scale, depth, and impact of the Iranian state’s complex system of propaganda production and suppression of dissent. The targets of these programs include a wide range of prisoners, including human rights defenders, journalists, ethnic minority activists, political dissidents, and dual nationals. The report also details the impact of broadcast forced confessions on the victims’ families.

The report documents how Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), which holds a monopoly over TV and radio broadcasts, has been actively involved in the systematic production and broadcast of forced confessions, the theft of private data, and the publication of defamatory content. The report concludes that IRIB, in collaboration with the security apparatus of the Ministry of Intelligence and the Intelligence Organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has become a means of mass suppression.

"Iran has long escaped responsibility for coercing forced confessions. While Iran’s state-run television is constantly airing programs that are the product of torture and intimidation, IRIB reporters freely travel and operate in Europe without any consequences. The European Union should suspend the entry of IRIB-affiliated officials and reporters into Europe as well as their operations until Iran pledges to abandon such archaic practices."

Mohammad Nayyer, JFI Co-Director

FIDH and JFI ask the international community to recognize that the broadcast of forced confessions, the theft of private data, and defamatory programs can constitute a form of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Our organizations urge states to adopt and implement legislation that provides for the prosecution under universal jurisdiction of these violations, and to support initiatives for the victims of IRIB propaganda campaigns to be able to take legal actions against the perpetrators and seek remedies.

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